Emancipation of minors may be defined as the termination of parental obligations and duties of support towards a child. Here, emancipation means becoming free from the control of parents or guardians. This status change typically signifies that the minor can make their own decisions, particularly in financial matters, and assume responsibilities usually held by adults.
It’s essential to understand that while emancipation provides more autonomy to the minor, they also bear the responsibilities that come with it, including financial self-sufficiency. The scope of power granted to an emancipated minor in contemporary times is influenced by local laws and regulations.
Although parents are not prevented from providing support and care to an emancipated minor financially or otherwise, parents wouldn’t be obligated to look after the financial needs of the minor. Here, we aim to elaborate on emancipation of minors and the scope of power that is being granted to a minor through emancipation in contemporary times.
TYPES OF EMANCIPATION
Emancipation could be express, implied and partial as per the precedents and laws bound to be specific as per the local laws
Express – Express emancipation may be comprehended as a court-granted emancipation.
Emancipation by courts is when a petition by the minor seeking to be emancipated from his parents and such petition is successful. Under these circumstances generally, the child is not willing to live with parents citing reasons of emotional or physical abuse. The court carefully examines the minor’s maturity, living conditions, and existing relationship with his/her parents and then grants or allows for the emancipation of the said minor.
Implied – Once a minor is married or in the military services, or for other reasons given by statutes or case laws, the minor without any explicit agreement is considered emancipated.
Emancipation of a person by age is also considered to be an implied emancipation. Emancipation by age is a direct consequence of the person attaining majority.
Partial – Partial emancipation is being allowed the advantage of being emancipated automatically on certain occasions, this generally happens through Marriage, incarceration, living apart, pregnancy and parenthood in the US.
GLOBAL UNDERSTANDING OF EMANCIPATION
Although most countries having common law legal systems have had different laws concerning Emancipation, Countries such as Australia, Ireland and New Zealand show no verve towards the idea of establishing the provision for emancipation. The legal systems in countries including Canada, South Africa and the United Kingdom have mostly shown their inclination towards protecting the social institution of family but also allow for emancipation to a certain extent weighing in the resentment and grievance of the minor.
In the USA, almost every state has a legal mechanism in place to provide for the emancipation of minors and regulate the same. In the UK, when a situation arises depicting the irremediable breakdown of the relationship between the parents/guardian and their minor child under sixteen years of age, then a fair alternative such as social services is opted for rather than the emancipation of minors.
FACETS OF EMANCIPATION
An emancipated minor shall have the right to make their own medical decisions symbolizing that consent of the parents is not required for any medical care provided to the minor. The Mature minor doctrine is a doctrine that accepts the fact that some minors have developed cognitive and decision-making abilities. Under this doctrine, a court allows a minor who is cognitively mature and who can make their own decisions to lead a life independent of their parental influence and interference. This doctrine has triggered a line of judgements to be made in favour of the emancipation of minors rather than considering it to be iniquitous. To convince a court to grant a petition for emancipation, a minor must prove to a court that the minor is qualified to be emancipated. Typical requirements include Age, Financial Independence, Legal Source of Income, Maturity, Understanding, Parental Consent.
Factors discouraging emancipation- When a court reviews an emancipation petition, certain information weighs against the possibility of emancipation.
Given below is a broad framework of the various rights and special exceptions provided to emancipated minors, however, these might differ by the domestic laws of each sovereign nation:
- Parental care and supervision shall be terminated with the emancipation of the minor.
- The right to sue and to be sued
- Right to purchase or rent a residence
- Right to freely enter into agreements without the barrier of voidability by virtue of his/her minority.
- Right to establish and maintain business relationships
- Right to make their own medical or health care decisions
- An emancipated minor shall be examined under or subjected to criminal laws as a minor only.
- An emancipated minor as a victim too would be still considered as a minor.
- For examination or subjecting an emancipated minor to criminal laws,
- those specific constitutional and statutory age requirements regarding voting, use of alcoholic beverages, possession of firearms, and other health and safety regulations relevant to the minor because of the minor’s age.
LIMITATIONS OF BEING AN EMANCIPATED MINOR
An Emancipated minor can exercise the legal rights of adulthood, but an emancipated minor is bound to certain restrictions as any other minor which include,
– Emancipated minors may not be able to vote even though they have many other rights similar to that of an adult
– An emancipated minor cannot be issued a driving licence just as any other minor.
– A minor is not allowed to drink until he/she attains majority notwithstanding the emancipation.
– Reluctance to enter into a contract with a minor does not cease even if the minor has been emancipated. This means that despite emancipation allowing the minor to enter into legally binding contracts, people, in general, are not inclined towards entering into a contract with a minor.
REASONS FOR EMANCIPATION OF MINORS
When Physical and/or Mental Abuse is experienced by minors in their home, inflicted upon them by their own family, it is an irrefutable consequence that the minor would no longer be comfortable in his/her own home and prolonged exposure to such conditions may cause physical and mental scarring which could ruin the entire life of a minor. It is thus under such circumstances, when the minor has attained a reasonable maturity level, holding the ability to make decisions on their own, deemed beneficial for the minor to be emancipated. This is considered to be one of the main reasons for minors resorting to emancipation. However, there is scope for minors citing other reasons, in pursuance to the judicial precedents in the respective countries.
In Letourneau v Haskell, a 16-year-old minor, Scott Haskell, approached the court for emancipation because of a series of events which eventually compelled him to seek emancipation. His parents had gotten separated, and soon after that, he started living with his father(who got custody after the divorce). Initially, he was fine and adjusted well into his father’s family, but as time progressed he faced difficulty in leading a normal life as his father’s second marriage was on the verge of dissolution. He then had to move into his mother’s home. Welcomed by his alcoholic stepdad who made his life miserable by subjecting him to abuse every day. Scott approached the court to get emancipated. Scott’s decision to get emancipated and to lead an abuse-free, happy life was resorted to due to an unstable, abusive and unfavourable environment, he was being subjected to as a minor. Generally, in cases of voluntary withdrawal by the minor, the parents are not bound by financial obligations towards their child, if the child gets emancipated with the wish to live independently.
A situation wherein, the parents directly or indirectly made the child’s life so miserable that he is forced to live separately, free from parental influence, it would be called constructive withdrawal. Here, the parents are bound by financial obligations.
In this case, the boy’s living conditions were so humiliating that he was forced to seek emancipation. Thus, the judge ruled in favour of the boy, emancipating him from his parents
and at the same time, mandating that the parents must fulfil their financial obligations towards their child until he turns 18. This decision was taken factoring in the age of the minor, as Scott is 16 years of age closer to the age of majority and seemed capable of living alone, leading an independent life and making rational decisions putting his best interests in mind.
EMANCIPATION IN INDIA
India lacks established laws allowing for the emancipation of a minor. This is due to the distinct moral and cultural system of the country. The atypical relationship that Indian parents have with their children could also be called as one of the reasons and this could be said in a perfectly neutral and positive sense. In India, a child can seek to be emancipated by the courts as there are no laws currently enacted governing and favouring such activity. The leeway to grant emancipation has been retained by the judiciary and is granted only after careful examination of the minor’s situation.
In Indian culture, divorce was and remains a taboo, although its increased awareness and acceptance have helped improve the situation. Emancipation also seems to fall into a bracket similar to divorce due to its function to divide a family. The reason for both these concepts to be considered taboo is due to the cultural construct that family is a sacred institution.
Children not coming within the voting bracket of the country is also one of the major reasons that has deterred the legislators of the country from making provisions in favour of emancipation of minors. Not explicitly making laws on emancipation is a conscious decision to not disenchant parents and make them insecure and uncomfortable.
Emancipation plays an instrumental role in the lives of children, who are victims of abuse by their parents as well as the ones whose parents have died and are not receiving proper care under the guardian. Emancipation allows them to live independently and take care of themselves and shields them from abuse. Emancipation provides leeway for the child to make his/her own medical decisions, to enter into agreements and allows them to live with financial independence. Though laws validating emancipation are non-existent, the judicial bodies allow for it only after careful examination of the child’s situation. The judicial body seeks to
allow for it only when the child has attained a certain level of maturity and seems capable enough to handle his/her wages and assets.
Though Emancipation is seen as a menace, it has proven to be remediating certain unfortunate problems faced by some minors allowing them to lead an independent life.
We can all agree that India’s socio-cultural situation is different from all other countries which already enacted emancipation laws. After understanding the concept of emancipation, its implications and laws granting it globally, our opinion may be skewed against emancipation laws.
However, the need to implement said laws has grown exponentially, driven by hope and trust in its potential contribution to alleviating the living conditions of many minors. It is essential to have a framework for regulating the emancipation of minors to help them and allow them to exercise this remedy under circumstances that they are competent to be emancipated.
Authors Name: Pasumarthi Anjana (Osmania University, Hyderabad)
 Cornell Law School, “Emancipation of Minors” <https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/emancipation_of_minors>accessed in September 2023
 Abigail English “State Minor Consent Laws: A Summary”<www.freelists.org/archives/hilac/02-2014/pdftRo8tw89mb.pdf>accessed in September 2023
 <https://www.expertlaw.com/library/juvenile-law/how-can-minor-get-emancipated>accessed in September 2023
 Letourneau v Haskell, (1979) 25 O.R. 139 (Ont. Co.Ct.) <https://ojen.ca/wp-content/uploads/Youth-Agency_Emancipation.pdf> accessed in 2023
 Children and Autonomy: Need for Emancipation Laws in India,” International Journal of Law ManagementHumanities<www.ijlmh.com/paper/children-and-autonomy-need-for-emancipation-laws-in-india/> accessed in September 2023